More than just a book of words, People of the Word: 50 Words That Shaped Jewish Thinking provides a wealth of fascinating new insight into Jewish history, thought, culture, meaning and practice. It has taken thousands of readers on an etymological journey into 50 big ideas that shape Jewish thought, values and culture since it was published late last year by and Ezra Press.

“One way to understand a culture is through the preponderance and prominence of certain words in that given culture,” explains Rabbi Kalmenson, who co-authored the work with Rabbi Zalman Abraham. “In the Jewish tradition, there are over 10 words for happiness … each of which describes a different shade of joy,” Kalmenson said in an interview with For example, gila, from the word gal, ‘rolling wave’ describes a spontaneous joy that overtakes someone; ditza is rooted in the word for ‘dance,’ and represents an all-consuming joy that expresses itself in dance. Sasson is a joy that’s tinged with a hint of sadness, like a parent walking a child down the aisle. These many words suggest that happiness is of great value in our culture.”

As the authors explore each word, they also uncover gems that put each idea into a uniquely Jewish perspective, often challenging the reader’s prior understanding.

Now, anyone who signs up for’s new Word of the Week email will receive another chapter of People of the Word each week, covering the book in its entirety over the course of a year.

“People of the Word condenses decades of learning into a clear roadmap for spiritual, ethical, and positive living,” says Lisa Miller, Ph.D., New York Times best-selling author of The Spiritual Child and The Awakened Brain. “The rabbis open up a dimension of human potential for a broad readership that has been held deep within Jewish wisdom. In short, an invitation to see and live in an added dimension.”

Rabbi Zalman Abraham brings his 13 years of experience planning and writing popular courses for the Jewish Learning Institute (JLI). Rabbi Mendel Kalmenson’s résumé includes serving as rabbi and executive director of Chabad of Belgravia in London, and author of several widely successful books, including the highly acclaimed Positivity Bias and Seeds of Wisdom.

Who is this book for? “If I had to settle on one,” says Rabbi Abraham, “it would be the person with a growing interest in Judaism who is looking to discover a unique Jewish worldview that is profound, relevant and resonant.”

Every chapter ends with “The Big Idea”—a takeaway in a one-liner—as well as an accompanying story, making it accessible to a broad and diverse audience.

“We tried to create something with this book that is both accessible and academic,” explains Rabbi Kalmanson. “It’s scholarly, but written in a contemporary and resonant style. So the academic might enjoy the essay more, people with shorter attention spans will walk away with ‘The Big Idea,’ and the story-lovers will have what to walk away with.”

The book is now available for purchase or e-book download in its entirety. Subscribers will receive exclusive free access to each chapter over the next year, embarking on a rare journey through the history, culture and dreams of a nation.

Readers can subscribe to the “Word of the Week”email here.